Graham Huggan, February 2022
It has been a year since our last research roundup and longer than that since our opening workshop and AGM, so it seems timely to provide an update now. The global pandemic started at the same time as our project funding, and inevitably it has continued to necessitate changes to our research design and our collaborative work. However, the project has not only managed to keep afloat, but has produced some excellent outcomes, and as project co-leader I am delighted to be able to share some of these with you now.
In WP1 Imaginaries, focusing on the Wadden Sea Biosphere Reserve, Eveline and Katie published an article in the journal Maritime Studies on literary works on the Wadden Sea as a way of grasping the conflicting scales of the Anthropocene. They also convened two lively and fruitful workshops (in June and November 2021) on literature and education in the Wadden Sea region, which brought together literary educators and conservation practitioners to discuss ways in which they might learn from each other’s work. Encouraging conversations from these workshops have led to a number of collaborative ideas for using literary works as an access point for issues of landscape history and conservation on the Wadden Sea being scheduled to take place in the coming year, and will form the basis of a second article.
In the Pyrenees National Park, Jon was able to make progress with fieldwork for WP2 Immersions despite the difficulties caused by the pandemic. He arranged a series of participatory ‘transect’ walks and sound recordings from these walks are currently being prepared. The walks themselves have been incorporated into Jon’s associated research on French wilderness mapping, which has since been presented at the IUCN World Conference in Marseilles in 2021 and has featured in the French national media. The Pyrenees were the focal point for our in-person team meetings and activities in September 2021, which brought the whole of the CT team together for the first time since the project started. Here, we were able to experience the sometimes rugged terrain of the Pyrenees for ourselves and also through conversations with local partners and experts.
Archival work, though inevitably delayed, has also been able to proceed, with Pavla recently spending a month doing intensive research in Prague for her book-in-progress on the environmental history of borders in the context of WP3 Invasions in the Bavarian Forest and Šumava National Parks. Pavla has developed connections to the ERC project on wild boars in Europe, and her recent publication in the handbook on European conservation in the twentieth century uses the Bavarian Forest and Šumava national parks as a case study.
WP4 Instructions aims to synthesize the insights from first three WPs, and we have taken some first steps in this direction as we entered the second half of the project duration. One particular highlight was George’s keynote address to a large audience (400+) of National Park managers and NGO representatives at an online EUROPARC conference in October 2021, where he emphasized the importance of factoring conservationists’ values into conservation practice – an emphasis that is integral to the Corridor Talk project’s humanities-based approach. George also played a lead role in what is probably our most important publication to date, a jointly written piece on mainstreaming the humanities in conservation research in the journal Conservation Biology.
In sum, we are proud of our achievements in what has been a difficult year for so many of us, both professionally and personally. All three of the project’s main work packages have made progress, if not always in the ways we might have foreseen, while our synoptic work package is also starting to come together. Further publications are in the pipeline and we hope that our plans to meet again in person in the Bavarian National Park in 2022 will help us to develop the key insights from our project for ourselves and our peers, for our national park partners, and for conservation policy. The adaptations in our research plan due to Covid will, in the end, only have strengthened the project in terms of the questions we are addressing and the research outputs we have generated, not to mention the relationships we have built with our project partners. We are thus confident, now as before, that the project will make a persuasive case for the value of humanities-oriented research in supporting ongoing conservation initiatives in, across, and beyond European National Parks.